EU launches bio-defense preparedness plan against COVID-19 variants

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Ursula von der Leyen, President-elect of European Commission, makes a statement at the headquarters of European Parliament in Strasbourg, France, Nov. 27, 2019. The European Parliament is due to vote on the new College of Commissioners later Wednesday. (Xinhua/Zhang Cheng)

BRUSSELS, Feb. 17 (Xinhua) — The European Union (EU) on Wednesday stepped up its efforts to detect and fight COVID-19 variants by bringing together various stakeholders to develop new and adapted vaccines.

A new project called “HERA Incubator” will gather researchers, biotech companies, manufacturers and public authorities in the EU and globally to detect new coronavirus variants, provide incentives to develop new and adapted vaccines, speed up the approval process for these vaccines, and ensure the scaling up of manufacturing capacities.

The incubator will also serve as a blueprint for the EU’s long-term preparedness for health emergencies, the European Commission said in a statement.

“New variants of the virus are emerging fast and we must adapt our response even faster,” said European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.

Thanks to the incubator, Europe is “tackling parallel or subsequent series of pandemics deriving from the variants,” said European Commission Vice President Margaritis Schinas, adding that it is pooling resources to ensure solidarity across the EU and the world.

The EU will spend 75 million euros (90.3 million U.S. dollars) on detecting, analyzing and assessing virus variants by supporting genomic sequencing in its member states, and a further 150 million euros on stepping up research and data exchange on variants, according to the Commission.

Mechanisms have also been devised to improve clinical trials and ramp up the production of COVID-19 vaccines.

The actions, the Commission said, are in preparation for the European Health Emergency Preparedness and Response Authority (HERA), which will be a permanent structure for risk modeling, global surveillance, technology transfers, supply chain risk mapping, flexible manufacturing, and vaccine and medicine research and development. Enditem